I’ve recently started to watch Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson on Netflix, because that’s usually how I catch my TV shows. It’s a really interesting show and is done very tastefully, without hammering too much of an anti-religion agenda. As a Freemason this is something I can appreciate because this program discusses science in a way that eludes to the creation of the universe and the evolution of the human race without trying to destroy anyone’s faith.
It’s often said that science and religion aren’t able to be paired together. I’ve seen and heard the faithful and atheist alike attack one another over their opposing standings. To me, and I think a lot of people, it shouldn’t matter where someone else stands on issues of faith or science – so long as you have a clear understanding that suits yourself. As Tyson remarks in the first episode of Cosmos, science is built upon the culmination of knowledge that is shared between a community that accepts proven science and rejects the elements that are disproven. In reality he’s probably taking the opportunity to politely nudge the strictly religious, deniers of climate change, and other key issues that spark fights from social media to the floors of the American Senate and the UK Parliament. That is to say, when the balance of powers is honored as dictated in the Constitution rather than overridden to expedite a political agenda by fiat. That’s another issue entirely though.
Something has been rolling around in my head and it deals with spirituality and writing. I have a concept of deity as required to be a member of the Masonic fraternity, and it is based upon a Judeo-Christian concept, but other than familiar ties to the Congregationalist branch that date back to Plymouth Colony, that is as far as I consider myself as religious. Over the years I’ve rolled over in my mind what my politics and religion are and often found myself at odds with myself and my own beliefs and leanings. I think if you don’t then there is something wrong.
I believe that Jesus is the son of God, because after all aren’t we all the children of that supreme being? You don’t have to believe that if you don’t want, I won’t hold it against you. Better yet, I won’t tell you that you’re going to Hell if you don’t believe in that sort of thing. For my own part it’s because I believe in the presence of a benevolent deity, or a greater power, God, whatever you like. I don’t think that God has a sex, or is in human form, or that it sits on a throne up in the sky casting homosexuals into the fiery pits of Hell. I think that if you want to come to the understanding of the true love of a heavenly parent that you have to embrace what George Takei said about Fred Phelps Sr. when he died, which was that he found out that “God doesn’t hate anyone.” I think when you embrace that idea, you can finally relax over issues of whether or not you’re going to Hell because you used the wrong fork at dinner. To me God created humans in his (for lack of a better phrase) image – not because that’s what God looks like, but because the “image” in question is what God thought a human should look like.
I think about the existence of God, probably more often than I should, because really I don’t think God cares if I think about God. The Hebrews described God as being jealous and even the Christians use that angle to get what they want out of their followers – not to pick on them, I’m just making a point. I think that I take this approach because if I believed in a god that wanted my undying love and devotion and to make my every effort about him, why make the rest of the world and all of the universe? Why not just make some dull plane in some parallel universe or multiverse and add hordes of followers and worshipers who just exist to bow down every moment of the day and revere you? It’s sort of a lousy concept, right? What’s the point of making everything in creation just to have all the attention for yourself?
In The Stand by Stephen King, Mother Abagail makes reference to “the God of her understanding”. That’s rather profound in my idea because it alludes to the believer, or the faithful, having an interpretation of deity that is something that they own. To me, God has its own sense of checks and balances. You don’t ask God for help winning the lottery, or to help scientists find a cure for a disease. We might not like to hear things like this, but that disease is there because God put it there, either through a divine fingerprint or through biological evolution itself. Is science involved? Of course it is because unless you are Barbara Eden you’re not going to blink and have something appear. You don’t ask for the way to be made easy, but you ask for the strength to get through it. Pray to God in the storm, but keep on rowing. Just keep swimming. To really appreciate my point and ideas about creation you have to let go of some preconceived notions.
I’m an author and I’ve written a total of six books. Three of them have been published, while the other three, along with several short stories, are in the wings waiting to be released. The characters in these stories, while often based on real people, are creations of my own design. I made them in my image and I love them all like my own children, even the ones that I killed off out of necessity. Writing or making art of some kind is essentially a divine act because you’re making something out of nothing, or based on inspiration from somewhere else which adds a spin the the ideas about multiverses and parallel planes. The thing for me though is that I don’t care if my characters know about me. I don’t care if they worship me, in fact I’d prefer it if they didn’t. They live in my mind and yours (if you’ve been kind enough to read my work), but I want them to be happy and go about their business and above all I want them to be who they are – who I made them to be. This isn’t to say I’m a god because I don’t think you really get to claim that status. I don’t think Jesus Christ did the things he did because he wanted to be a god or worshiped. I think he did them because he genuinely loved people, even those who wanted him dead.
From a certain point of view you can’t exactly deny the possibility of the existence of God simply because it isn’t backed up by science. Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. If we can surmise the possibility of extra terrestrials without any concrete evidence how can we deny the existence of God? The principles are one in the same, held by the same tenuous notions, but one is plausible under the tenants of science while the other gets academics run out of colleges and universities simply for suggesting that they believe in it. As a species we are spectacularly hypocritical because on the one hand we talk about how much we know and how much there still is to learn, but in the same breath broadly state that under no circumstances could there be any possibility of a divine being or entity that is beyond our understanding because it isn’t backed up by our own science. We give ourselves way too much credit. We talk about how these Biblical miracles couldn’t ever have happened based on our own science – a science that we like to suggest is all-encompassing and irrefutable when we want to make a political point against someone we disagree with, but when we acknowledge that there is something to be learned suddenly our ideas about science become malleable and moldable, even correctable. Which is it?
The thing about humans is that while we claim to not be afraid to be wrong, it actually scares the shit out of us. Religion is for people who are afraid of going to Hell, while spirituality is for those who have already been there. When you let go of the idea that you might be wrong, and more importantly that the other guy is wrong, then you can actually grow as a person and a society. Students praying on an athletic field or in a classroom isn’t an affront to the separation of church and state any more than the idea of a supreme being is to the Big Bang and evolution. These ideas do not have to be mutually exclusive. Those who don’t subscribe to any concept of deity would like to claim that they aren’t inhibited by anything but the limits of science, but in reality until we can claim with all certainty that our knowledge exceeds the very limits of the universe and creation – that is simply put, that we have all the answers – atheism is for all intents and purposes a religion.